Approximately ten years ago, Nikki Walton was a Missouri-based college student, balancing her studies and her social life like so many others, discovering deep-rooted things in her subconscious that had always existed but remained undetected. While away at school, Walton enlisted her boyfriend to transport her to and from her trusted hairstylist in St. Louis. This monthly trek entailed a three hour ride down the interstate- all to have her hair washed and “pressed” under scorching heat, ultimately achieving bone straight tresses that lasted a week. “After a year or two of that, my then-boyfriend, now husband, pulled me to the side and said, ‘You’re a Psych major, you should see that this isn’t healthy. Your hair is beautiful no matter how it is, and you should be comfortable with it kinky, curly, or straight,’” Walton recalls, “It was at that time that I had to agree with him.” Today, Nikki is a successful psychotherapist and the most credible online source in regards to natural hair care, maintenance, and decoding psychological ties between black women and their hair.
After carefully considering the words of her college sweetheart, Walton resolved to make peace with her natural texture, researching which styles embraced black women’s curls and kinks, what products were best, and what techniques worked in maintaining healthy hair. She began following the site NaturallyCurly.com and experimented with new products and ideas. Walton avidly participated in forums on the site, chiming into the conversation with tips and suggestions based on her own hair care findings. It wasn’t until October 2008 when she would launch her own site CurlyNikki.com. She dedicated herself to assisting black women in learning to love their hair, and the reader following she’d built from NaturallyCurly was devoted to her as well. “They said: ‘If you build your own website, we’ll come to it because we’re only checking in on NaturallyCurly to see what you’re up to,’” Walton admits.
Two days into setting up CurlyNikki.com, Walton posted 30 articles using the information she’d diligently gathered over the years of getting to know her texture. “It was just all up there. I’d become an expert from just researching and analyzing the information,” Nikki says, “ I started the site, launched it with about 300 members from NaturallyCurly.com that came over with me and it’s grown exponentially from there.” Beyond providing tips and product recommendations, Walton implements her learned skill on the site as well in the subsection On the Couch with CurlyNikki. “It’s not just about the styling and the aesthetic, it’s also about the psychology because it’s very much wrapped up in body image and self-esteem. Our hair is everything,” Walton enthuses, “So allowing people to vent and talk about their family’s response, their friends’ response, to them Big Chopping or going natural, it’s very cathartic to be able to do that in a safe place.”
After a while, with CurlyNikki.com reaching unforeseen milestones in online trafficking, Walton thought of stepping outside of her own outlet to make even more women aware of the hair options they believed to be nonexistent. She reached out to the online editor for the Tyra Show’s website. The editor thought Nikki had innovative ideas that would fare well on their site and decided to feature a column from her. On the day of posting, the site drew more hits than it had ever seen, jolting Tyra Banks into paying attention and inviting Nikki to appear on the show two days later. “People will say on the site sometimes: ‘It’s just hair, it’s not that deep,’ but they come to the site [CurlyNikki.com] everyday, so maybe it is that deep. For black women especially, it’s wrapped up in our quality of life.”
For Nikki, this is only the beginning. Her methods in assisting “new” naturals are unwavering in their inventiveness. In March of 2011, she created a free CurlyNikki mobile phone application to give her readers more of an interactive feel when they were out and about. The application is the perfect tool allowing the CurlyNikki community to share tips on the run or product recommendations when in the hair care aisle. Within 5 months of the app’s launch, there were 45,000 downloads. “I’m just taking it as it comes. Things have happened so fast,” she pauses, “The growth has happened so fast that right now, I’m just trying to provide the best service that I can. I feel like that’s the best part of my success- that I focus on making sure that the user experience is nice and easy and that the information is thorough and accurate. I feel like if I continue to do that, everything else will fall into place.”
photo credits: Danny of topshelfjunior.com